Today the Church pauses to remember St. Thomas the Apostle. There is much by way of traditional lore about this apostle including the tradition that he traveled as far as India in his mission of preaching the Gospel. There are several different accounts of his death, but the most prevalent is that he was killed by four lance thrusts. The legends regarding his burial and the place of his relics are long and complicated. However, today the most popular Christian name in India is Thomas, indicating that the Christians of India have special regard for him and embrace the history that brought him to India to preach the Gospel.
The name Thomas comes from the Aramaic and classical Syrian word "Toma," which means "twin." The Gospel refers to him as Thomas or Didymus, the Greek word for twin.
However, the Gospel of St. John is perhaps the best source of material about this man. He is featured prominently in that Gospel, appearing several times and in several different situations. There are three occasions on which he speaks, the first at the time that Jesus and the Twelve learned of the death of Lazarus. Thomas is quoted as saying, "Let us go with him so that we may die with him." (John 11:16) Only someone who believes what Jesus has been teaching them, only someone who has placed his trust in Jesus could make such a statement. Thomas therefore stands as a man of faith, much the same as he does in the upper room after the Resurrection. That faith makes him able to enter into the struggle between life and death, between darkness and light.
As a community we are still struggling with death and life. Nothing is more stressful, nothing is more traumatic in human life. Death brings with it thoughts of abandonment, grief over the loss of a loved one, intimations of our own mortality. Faith in Jesus, the faith of St. Thomas, has been lived out by the Christian community down through the ages. We cling to that faith and proclaim with St. Thomas to the rest of our world that we believe that our passing from this life is but the beginning of a new life.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator